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After Reagan: Bush, Dukakis, and the 1988 Election, John J. Pitney Jr.

Reviewed by Christopher J. Devine

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Let’s start with the obvious questions: Why do we need another book on the 1988 presidential election? And why now? John J. Pitney Jr. provides an entirely persuasive rationale for such an analysis in this book’s introduction that is borne out, with great rigor and insight, in subsequent chapters. In doing so, he establishes After Reagan as an invaluable contribution to scholars’ understanding of not just one election but late twentieth-century American politics in general.

First, Pitney treats this election as “a measure mark for judging how our politics ha[ve] changed” since 1988—and, for that matter, since the 1950s (p. 1). Indeed, Chapters 1 and 2 explain how changes within the Republican Party—and his own political fortunes—led George H.W. Bush to promise voters in 1988, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” Subsequently, Chapter 7 explains how breaking this promise damaged Bush’s presidency, as well as his 1992 reelection campaign, and shaped future Republican presidential candidates’ anti-tax policies. Pitney also details how changes in media coverage, campaign finance, public policy, and other factors shaped the 1988 election—and led to future changes. For example, Pitney explains how recent technological advances—

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